After being introduced to the idea of paper as a medium in an art school 'materials and structures' class, Nicholls collaborated with paper sculpture artist Jonathan Milne back in 1983.
"From that project felt a strong pull toward the possibilities of paper sculpture in my career," the Canadian artist reveals. During the next year or so he completed his first sculptures for various clients, based out of Toronto.
Nicholls begins with a quick line drawing, establishing contours and planes and mapping out the topography of the piece. "All of the detail is drawn to provide an understanding of the feather layering or the flow of the fur," he says.
The artist selects papers based on heavier weights for structure and lighter for fur and fine detail and he is constantly referring to his drawings and study photos to ensure that the assembled pieces are true to the original plan.
"On completion I set aside time to play with studio lighting to define the texture and form in the low relief sculpture. A high resolution photo captures the artwork in it's optimal lighting for use in print applications.
"The sculpture is mounted in conservation quality mats and displayed under museum glass or acrylic to filter UV light and to virtually eliminate reflections for generations of viewing."
Nicholls takes his inspiration from moments in nature, when he least expects it. "Sometimes it's simply a tree, rock formation, driftwood or random situation that starts an idea and allows me to place a subject into the scene," he explains.
"The most satisfying aspect is acting on that inspiration. In my experience, there is an urgency about it because it can be difficult to rekindle the authenticity and feeling later."
Although the artist has managed to forge a career out of his niche artform, he says it hasn't always been easy and owes it to friends and family who stepped forward to allow him to advance his craft.
"Hard work doesn't always bring rewards immediately but perseverance has served me well. Monitoring opportunities in the art collecting world and commercial licensing has been critical," Calvin comments.
"Being confident in the work and humble about acceptance seems a good formula as well. I watch other successful artists and entrepreneurs for guidance in a competitive world.
"It's never easy but I love what I do. That may be the the most necessary ingredient but it's not enough on it's own. The search for a place in the market never ends. It's part of the adventure."
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